tv Newsmakers CSPAN December 6, 2009 6:00pm-6:30pm EST
>> it will be as it already is, battle tested, but it will be deployed much more extensively. it will be in a position in lead element. as a result, i think it will be significant achievement and allow us to begin the transition the president spoke about. >> will the military be ready? >> i think the army will be ready, ready for the role of holding territory and cooperating with local afghans in building political governments. they will also be ready to assume a more challenging task. they will not be ready in the sense of having a staff with the quartermaster corps with their own helicopter lift, with logistical -- there are few
armies in the world that have that robust capability, but they will be markedly improved. there is an issue with the police. the police will not be allowable of comparable stature and capability, but the first step, and the right step, is to get the army not only into the fight, but ready to take on the fight and allow us to leave. >> thank you taking the time. how long will they need u.s. support to conduct operations? >> i think as the president outlined it, by 2011 we will begin to transition our combat forces out. as we have done in iraq, we will probably maintain first forces to protect our troops, but second, there are critical elements like a helicopter cliff. one of the interesting comparisons between iraq and afghanistan is that i think if
we are able to deploy afghan forces with suitable mobility, armored humvees and vehicles, some of the more elaborate enablers like helicopter lifts might not be necessary. i think it would be very capable against the taliban with mobility and training and fire support and those things, but there will be continuing logistical support. the key element is combat forces will begin to come out. >> is this going to take a decade that they will need u.s. troops or helicopter lifts? is it something that is going to be that long? >>4w we are going to have to hae a presence and foundation in afghanistan for a long time, because it is a critical area. al qaeda is still on the border between afghanistan and pakistan.
it is very disruptive boast to the pakistan knees and the afghanis. -- pakistanis and the afghanis. it is an area where were have to have a presence, but it should not be combat troops. it should be trainers and support elements. we will get to the point where afghan forces are able to handle their own security with some limited assistance. >> on a related note, where you see that civil society portion of this in 2011? some of your more progressive colleagues have concerns about the government right now, its legitimacy and whether it will affect our mission there. how do you see that playing out? >> there is a definite lack of
governmental capacity. that will not be cured in a brief time. regardless of the situation in kabul, being able to extend the government to the provinces is going to be very challenging. one of the problems with our approach to afghanistan over many years is that there is a bit of a cultural disconnect. afghanistan has never had a strong central government, but power has been localized. the afghans chose a model of a strong central government and a very weak provincial government. i think we have to move more toward the provincial level. not only because the power of the center is not capable, but culturally, that is where they look to. they look to tribal leaders. for the strategy of general
mcchrystal is to begin to align our efforts with hitters -- with this political culture. >> this that mean we need to empower tribes to provide their own security? is going to be some provision where you would be paying locals? >> there will be provisions through the response on or something comparable to that to provide security. it might be more cost effective and better, since afghans have more insight into the neighborhoods than we do. i think there is an effort to be practical, innovative, to try different approaches. much of what was done in iraq, where army colonels and marine colonel's over several years
started saying we can use these people, we have their support. there is more sensitivity to trying to truck -- to trying to understand the culture and align our objectives with the local tribes. >> when president obama announced the true increase this last week, there was the sense that he needed to sell this to the progressive part of the democratic party. do you think he has done a good job with that? if not, what does he need to do? >> i think what happened is that this started with a very deliberate, very thorough review. the military officers who participated said it is one of the most exhaustive and
thorough reviews that have ever observed, and many have served with other presidents. i think they gave him a strategy. the next issue in the public arena is to explain the strategy and to rally support. i think the president did an excellent job at west point explaining the strategy. one of the factors, and someone characterized it as giving a little here and a little here. i think the strategy was embraced by secretary gates and admiral mullen as a date to begin a transition period in the sense of communicating to the american public at large that this is not an open-ended commitment. there are limits. it is the ultimate responsibility of the afghans to
take up the fight themselves. president karzai has dealt we are there for our own reasons, not to help him, and therefore he has been in different. >> but the president did not give specifics on how this is going to be paid for. congressman obey is suggesting a war tax. do you support that idea? >> i support the idea of paying for it. i think we have gone now for a 8 plus years, two wars, close to $1 billion which has contributed to our deficit. i think that is the president's view, too. the specifics are always difficult, but there are only two ways to do it. one is to make savings in other accounts, expense accounts.
some of that will be done. then you have to consider raising revenue. that is something we are doing right now on the health-care debate issue. it is ironic that we have committed ourselves in the health-care debate not only to pay for it, to make it be budget saving going forward, and we are being resisted by the republicans on that. they seem to suggest that we resist even paying for the operations in afghanistan. we have got to begin to reverse the deficit. lots of people talk about it, and it has got to be done. this particular approach, that will evolve over several months. >> i wanted to move on to something else. about the search itself. when will we know if it has worked are not worked? >> one of the things that resulted from this detailed analysis was the fact that the
troops will be more efficiently deploy, more quickly deployed. this is a faster deployment schedule than general mcchrystal ask for. that was the result of going back and forth. that is an improvement in what we are doing. i sense it will take six months or so, because as the troops began to flow in, the signs of progress will be at a decrease in violence. we also have to anticipate there will be a reaction by the taliban and al qaeda and all the other networks to try to shake our confidence, and disrupt our deployment. gradually i think we will seek improvements. that will give rise to more routine, day to day life for the afghanis. schools will be open and stay
open. they will be able to congregate without fear of being attacked. >> it sounds like you anticipate an increase in u.s. casualties at the start though. >> i think that is right. we have seen with the deployment recently of units, marines in the second infantry division, we have seen deliberate attempts to attack them, and also since they are in contact, they are moving through terrain which the taliban has controlled for months, if not years. they have made the terrain very forbidding in terms of booby trapping trails. the terrain where fighting in now is dominated by a river and canal, very difficult. >> senator mccain and others have been critical of the notion
of having a start date for pulling out. they said that by doing that you essentially give the taliban and al qaeda and others the chance to say they will just lay low, and when we start to leave that will go back in and take over. >> first of all, as evidenced by the last year or two, the taliban and al qaeda did not need a reason to be emboldened. we have had no deadline for withdrawal, and the situation has deteriorated. the presumption that this will just make them angrier is not logical. second, if they do, it will minimize casualties i think that would be a benefit, and that is the u.s. secretary gates also.
if they want to go out and hide or leave the country, what we will do in the interim is build up the afghan army, secure territory, build governance, stringfield -- strengthen the local tribal government, to the detriment of the taliban and al qaeda. >> the general mcchrystal's insistence on eliminating civilian casualty -- does that entail more casualty's for our troops? how long will the u.s. public tolerate that? >> i was in iraq on labor day weekend. we were down with the fifth brigade. i asked all of the battalion commanders that specific question, is this policy appropriate and effective? they said once we explain to our soldiers the policy that we support -- every time a
civilian is hurt, the propaganda that is generated by the taliban and out kinda sets us back -- of the taliban and al qaeda sets us back. one of the lessons of the soviet conflict was they took a cavalier attitude toward civilian casualty. hundreds of thousands of pashtuns were killed with indiscriminate firing. that hasten their departure as much as anything. it generated sympathy in the united states. when charlie wilson went to those camps and talked about villages being bombed indiscriminately, that is what moved us to step in.
general mcchrystal and general petraeus have dedicated their life not only to serving their nation but to protecting the soldiers and sailors and marines under their command. >> we have already started to seek some signs of fatigue with the afghan war here in the united states. how long do you realistically think we have before it starts to become more untenable and we start to see serious opposition to staying? >> there has been frustration. it has been a long, long time. this is eight years. one of the unfortunate things, we did not appropriately use many of those years. this was under resources, ignored, because iraq consumed all the resources, all the attention, all the political
debate and capital. in those years, we have lost tremendous ground. we have allowed the taliban to reconstitute itself, and the frustration is not only with the american people, the frustration is with the afghan people. they thought would help them achieve more quickly as stable government. we have to realize this cannot go on forever in the same way, and that is why i think the president decided that not only would we provide these additional resources, we will indicate very clearly there is a point where there will be a transition period. part of the frustration of the american people and part of the reason is the economy.
that puts this in a much different context than 2002 through 2005 when the economy appeared to be moving and the debate was more strategic and tactical. now people are saying can we afford this, how come we pay for this, etc.. >> the president referred to the days of the blank check as being over. what you attribute that to? >> that refers to the notion that we are in afghanistan for our own purposes and not to help the afghani people. that has been the course of some of the lack of effort by the afghan people, particularly president karzai, indulging in corruption and letting all those things happen.
the consequences will be much more severe to you than to the united states. >> what must the afghan government do to prove it is confident? >> first, they have to ensure that local governors are effective and committed to the fight and are properly resources. governors are appointed by karzai, they are not elected, so there is no independent power base. the resources all come from kabul. we have to ensure that they have the resources. if we are restructuring the police, they have to have the ability to pay the police.
those are the first that. they also have to begin to recognize that they have to build this infrastructure, bill the economy. -- build the economy. they have to be competent, not corrupt. >> we do support including some kind of benchmarks in the bill? >> i would expect that there would be benchmarks. those benchmarks were generally helpful, because they establish a framework. there is a clear understanding. in the iraq experience, even when we were unsuccessful, they were able to communicate to the iraqi government that we were
very serious. if you do not see any outcomes of increased productivity -- this dynamic is helpful. what is fundamental to counterinsurgency operation is that military operations will buy time to develop civilian capacity. >> how concerned are you about the strain on u.s. forces for repeated deployments of 89 years? >> the strain has been significant. -- deployments of eight or nine years. >> there is a much more dependable dwell. after deployment. one officer son just got back
from iraq, and he can expect to years back at fort bragg, where before it was 18 months. if you just got out of iraq, it would train and then go back in. still, the strain has been significant. it has played out in what you are seeing now in terms of divorce rates, mental-health issues. we have to be conscious of that very concerned. i think that has motivated the president to not only energized the afghanis, but also to signal that this is not an indefinite commitment of large-scale u.s. forces. >> is there anything congress can do to help with that? is there a way for you all to help with the strain or try to increase troop levels? >> we have increased the troop levels, not by some of the figures from when iraq started.
we anticipated the need for more forces. it took a long time to even get the increase we have now. what we are trying to do to ease the strain is ensure that the commanders have the resources for all of the quality of life services that are so necessary. when a soldier first deploys, it helps to know that the schools back on the post are functioning, the day care centers, hospitals, the family support groups are in place. the other thing we have to do is make sure there is a much closer connection between the veterans administration and the department of defense, so that soldiers, sailors, and marines coming back do not fault the screen and not get the help they need when they are back home. >> you have mentioned in the past that afghanistan has been
starved for resources. is that no longer the case, and if it is the case, what do troops need that they are not getting? >> as soon as president obama came in, there was a decision in march to send 20,000 more forces there, which was a strong sign that we have to get more effective forces on the ground. then the equipment has been increased. the marines are deploying an armored humvee that has capabilities more adaptable to afghanistan than the vehicles were used in iraq. we are sending in more helicopters. we have a whole aviation brigade in there now. we are beginning to develop the kind of intelligence capacity, more platforms are in place. all resources that were in iraq, not all, but many are beginning
to move across. it is a tough decision for general petraeus and general odierno. it is a huge shift in resources. perhaps the biggest resource is, we have been taking the best people we can find to go in. we have had good leadership in afghanistan, but we have now tried to assemble what most people regard collectively as the best we have. general mcchrystal, general rodriguez, general caldwell was sent to be the training commander. we are integrating nato and u.s. efforts. we are unified command and control with pakistan. >> you flew up with the president this past week to west point. what was the mood on the plane? what was he talking with you
about? what was that evening like for you and others? >> he was consumed with getting the last parts of the speech right. there was a feeling that this was the result of a deliver, careful review. they felt confident about the outcome. they also felt very confident the president had so or burst himself in the review that he understood the issues -- he had so versed himself in the review that he understood the issues. one would argue that after years of neglect, there were not very many good options. this was the best of many challenging options.
on the way back, the president came back and sat down and we just chatted, i showed him a picture of my daughter in her west point surely an outfit. we were reminded that the president and michelle gave the baby a wonderful gift when she was born. we thought it was a cake, but it turned out to be much more useful, it was diapers. we chatted about the health care debate, etc. >> center jack reed, thanks very much for joining us. we continue the conversation. what happens if the strategy does not work? >> ssa to read was talking about, there will be some clear
signs early on -- as senator reed was talking about, there'll be some clear signs early on. whether the american public is going to tolerate it will be a sign of whether or not the strategy will be sustainable. >> politically, he has a couple of months where if things start to go poorly, the president is going to see members of his own party coming out hard against him. a number of house members basically do not like this idea and do not want to spend more money and more american lives. >> he also said that we need to pay with this, but -- that we need to pay for this, but no specifics. >> right now is $60 million for the 60,000 that are there now. you are talking about maybe $100
billion a year. how long is that sustainable? >> president obama is leaning very hard on his left wing right now on the health care debate and is probably going to ask them to eat a lot of crow, whether or not he will have the political capital to come back and ask for and an additional $30 billion and whatever else we will have going forward after that. >> will the political capra come from the republican party in order to pay for this? -- the political capital. >> is there any momentum for the war tax that obey has talked about? >> certainly not in the senate. i do not think there is any real appetite for that.